Olympic fever is in the air! The London 2012 Olympic Games kick off next Friday.
Not long after the Olympics conclude, London will play host to the 2012 Paralympic Games.
Watching sporting events—especially the Olympics—is a shared experience that excites, inspires, and amazes. But nothing compares to watching Canadian Paralympians overcome unique challenges to compete at the highest level of their sport, representing their country on the world’s grandest athletic stage.
As we know from the Senate Human Rights committee’s recent study, Level the Playing Field, we can do much more to recognize the incredible success of our Paralympic athletes. Among many other measures, our committee’s report recommends that the Government of Canada, “celebrate and publicize the achievements of athletes with disabilities in a manner that is equal to the way Canada’s Olympic athletes are celebrated and promoted.”
Where Canadian Paralympians are concerned, there is so much to celebrate and publicize. At the recent 2008 Summer Paralympics in Beijing and at the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada placed seventh and third respectively in the overall country medal standings. Despite these resounding successes, Canadian Paralympic victories “have gone virtually unnoticed, in part due to the lack of media coverage for sports for persons with disabilities.”
There are far-reaching implications for the lack of media exposure that Canadian athletes with disabilities receive. For one, without sufficient exposure, it is difficult for organizations that support athletes with disabilities to attract corporate sponsorship. For another, “minimal public awareness about sports for persons with disabilities ensures that helpful information about all programs remains hard to obtain and perpetuates the key barriers” discussed in the report.
How can our federal government help? By sharing the inspiring stories of Canadian athletes with disabilities in addition to information about programs and opportunities available to all Canadians, the government would encourage “active living and equal opportunities for all Canadians in sport.” Better promoting Canadian Paralympians could lead to increased media exposure, opportunities for corporate sponsorship, and a greater public awareness regarding sports for disabled persons.
In the spirit of the committee’s recommendation, I’m looking forward to sharing stories and information about Canada’s Paralympic team over the next few months leading up to and during the Paralympic Games. If you have a story about a Paralympian that you’d like to share, please contact me!